Gazette letters: Dixon Clark Court trees, voting system, LTNs and Covid

The trees at Dixon Clark Court are scheduled to be felled. Picture: Alex Hofford

The trees at Dixon Clark Court are scheduled to be felled. Picture: Alex Hofford - Credit: Archant

In 2011, when the future of Highbury Corner was being consulted, I proposed that the arboretum at its centre should be linked to the green space round Dixon Clark Court by closing the eastern arm of the former gyratory, writes James Dunnett, architect, Barnsbury Road, Islington.

I hoped by that to both head off any raids that might be planned on the green space and to achieve a rational traffic solution.

In the event, a large slice has been taken off the eastern side of the arboretum for the controversial traffic rearrangement and the council is persisting with its plan to build extensively on the green space round Dixon Clark Court.

This is in the face of innumerable publications emphasising the importance of contact with greenery for both physical and mental health, as emphasised in the report of Mayor Sadiq Kahn’s London Green Spaces Commission and in the Friends of the Earth’s report England’s Green Space Gap, both published this year.

The council should recognise the critical importance of a green environment and cease their policy of building on the green spaces in their own housing estates.

Building on such green spaces, especially in so green-starved a borough as Islington, is not the way to solve the housing problem.

On Tuesday, October 6, work will begin to remove seven mature trees from Islington Council’s own Highbury Corner little forest on Dixon Clark Court (DCC), writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

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The trees are to be destroyed and replaced by a six-storey block of 14 leaseholder flats.

A letter to residents earlier this month announcing that building works will begin on October 12 fails to mention the tree works but continues to spin the misleading statement that the 41 new-homes scheme contains “27 much-needed council homes”.

As two of DCC’s existing council dwellings are to be reclaimed as storage areas, this means a net increase of 25 additional social homes.

An earlier request that the official planning committee minute be amended properly to record and clarify the matter was ignored by both the town hall’s housing boss and its chief executive.

A junior officer was instead assigned the job of signing off a ludicrous response which reads, in part: “As you know, every individual perceives information slightly differently, depending upon the context and their particular interests.

“It is always possible therefore that the wording of minutes does not reflect the perception of every interested party, but that does not necessarily mean that the minute is incorrect.”

“Alternative facts” as Donald Trump’s former right-hand woman might say.

Much has been learnt about the worldwide climate emergency since permission for this scheme was granted two years ago.

It’s to be regretted, therefore, that a proposal to save the trees by shifting the block further along on the site was dismissed out of

hand by the council’s housing boss and ignored by the project’s architects.

In less than a week the trees will be gone, so it’s comforting to remember Gaspard the fox, and wonder if with a family of her own, she, like many of the children from Canonbury Primary School and other adults, will miss this soothing, pleasant corner of an otherwise toxic neighbourhood.

The current state of our politics makes major reform more important and pressing than ever in my lifetime, writes Steve Powell, Highbury Station Road, Islington.

Under the current unfair, undemocratic voting system used for the House of Commons, the Conservatives have a large undeserved majority with 364 seats.

If we used the same electoral system as the London Assembly, the Welsh Senedd and the Scottish Parliament they would have around 282 seats, well short of a majority but still the biggest party.

The big winners in a fair electoral system would be the Liberal Democrats, who would go up from eleven seats to around 72. Labour would also get a few more seats.

If Islington Council were to use the same system, Labour - the party of which I’m a member and have voted for all my life - would go down from 47 seats to 30.

The Greens would get around eight seats instead of their current one. Both the Liberal Democrats (six) and the Conservatives (four) would also be represented.

Reform needs to go far, far further than the electoral system, however. Among the changes we urgently need are:

n A written constitution entrenching essential rights and freedoms requiring an enhanced majority of two-thirds of both houses of Parliament to be amended, the appointment of judges by an independent commission, the entrenching of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights and the right to judicial review of all executive


• The replacement of the House of Lords with a small, elected upper house of no more than 60 members with a third of members retiring every two years;

• Constitutional entrenchment of the powers of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, Northern Ireland Assembly, Greater London Authority, regional metro mayors and local government;

• Enhanced autonomy, decentralisation and powers for local government with the right of local voters to create or rescind the office of executive mayor and/or introduce proportional voting systems;

• A modernised and compulsory voter registration system with votes being extended in all elections to all legally resident persons over the age of sixteen.

I’d also move Parliament out of London to the north of England, ban MPs and members of the upper house from outside employment, half the number of MPs, hold a referendum on the monarchy and make voting compulsory.

We need to be bold. Drastic change is needed.

Most people are in favour of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs or known as People Friendly Streets in Islington), writes an Islington resident, full name and address supplied.

This has been shown repeatedly in surveys and consultations everywhere: in London, across the UK and in other countries.

Once in and settled no-one campaigns to have LTNs removed. The De Beauvoir LTN in neighbouring Hackney was installed many years ago and there are no marches there demanding that it be removed.

Everyone who visits comments on how pleasant the streets are.

So why are some people getting so angry about the LTNs that are being introduced in Islington now? Some people just don’t like change.

Less than a third of people in Islington have cars but some of these drivers are so wedded to their motorised lifestyles that they cannot see the harm they are doing to themselves and others.

They just want to carry on driving everywhere. They lack the imagination to see how much better their lives and their streets could be, if only they would drive less.

So they pretend that people will be prevented from making essential journeys (not true), they pretend that they care about the disabled (many of whom don’t even use cars), they pretend that their concern is for others, when actually it’s themselves and their current damaging lifestyles that they care about.

If these drivers want to avoid the accusation of “selfish” then they have to start listening to all the benefits that LTNs will bring: less traffic, reduced air pollution, greater safety for everyone, happier, healthier residents, and streets in which children can play and neighbours can meet.

Who but the selfish would not want all that?

Test and Trace has had a difficult start, but the launch of the new app will play a vital role in stopping the spread of the virus, writes Jennette Arnold, London Assembly member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest.

With cases quickly rising across the capital, we are now at a crucial juncture and we need as many Londoners as possible to sign up to the app for it to work effectively.

Businesses also have a key part in this and must download and clearly display the NHS QR code in their premises.

In the meantime, it is important that the government are robustly held to account over their efforts to resolve the major issues we have recently seen with testing capacity.

We have lacked test information in London for weeks, which has caused huge worry for all of us in local and regional government, writes Sian Berry, Green Party co-leader and London mayor candidate.

The news that Public Health England has added London to its list of areas of concern, using estimates from other data, shows what a crucial time this is and how all our actions can make a difference.

The 10pm closing time for bars and restaurants has already led to crowded scenes on public transport that worry me greatly. My strong advice to Londoners is to avoid going out in the next few days unless you have to, and find other ways to see friends and family.

Like you, I am sad, tired and weary after six months of a gruelling national crisis but we’re in a dangerous moment, lacking data and tests, and we must work together as a city amid rising signs of infection.

I have called repeatedly for a universal and unconditional system of income support so that no-one needs to face a choice between poverty and taking risks with their health.

Over the coming days we can act, whether or not the government does. If you have a choice to reduce exposure or put off risky activities, it could make all the difference.